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WASHINGTON – U.S. home construction fell in January for a second month but the weakness in both months reflected severe winter weather in many parts of the country. The expectation is that housing will deliver another year of solid gains, helped by an improving economy.

Builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent. The declines in both months were blamed largely on the weather.

Applications for building permits fell in January for a third month, dropping 5.4 percent to a rate of 937,000.

For all of 2013, housing construction rose 17.7 percent to 976,000 units, the best showing since 2007. Analysts expect further gains this year as stronger job growth boosts demand.

For January, both single-family and apartment construction fell. Single-family building dropped 15.9 percent to a rate of 573,000 while apartment construction was down 16.3 percent to 307,000.